10 May 2002
Azerbaijani Football Controversy Continues
The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Deputy Director Marcus Studer recently sent a letter to Azerbaijan Football Federation Association (AFFA) President Fuad Musaev, strictly warning AFFA leadership and clubs that if the conflict is not settled, certain steps will be taken against both sides
The nine clubs which have boycotted their participation in the national football championship could be barred from the championship, and UEFA warned it would provide no financial assistance and AFFA will be expelled from UEFA. Prior to the warning, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) had also sent AFFA the same warning. Studer, however, has both issued a warning and offered recommendations to reach reconciliation. In the recommendations, AFFA leadership is advised to expedite talks with the clubs and to regularly inform UEFA of the situation.
This controversy, which began a month ago, is the most recent phase of a five-year battle involving AFFA President Musaev. He and his supporters claim that the government is pushing for his removal.
Vidadi Ahmadov, president of the Neftchi club, says they are ready to continue the championship under AFFA once Musaev steps down.
According to Ahmadov, Musaev is one man, but the number of the clubs is greater. Thus, the one should give up the game against the many. He claimed he had no information about the meeting with AFFA's secretary-general, but even if this meeting takes place the clubs' position will remain unchanged.
While international football organizations are maintaining their position regarding the current state of Azerbaijani football, the opposing sides also are also holding their stand.
The AFFA leadership's attitude to the issue seems quite understandable with regard to international recommendations. The clubs have planned to organize an alternative championship and arrange alternate games, something AFFA Secretary-General Chingiz Ismailov has called meaningless. According to him, the clubs will not gain anything but in the end, he believes, they will make the right choice. The secretary-general stressed that AFFA appreciated UEFA's recommendations and is ready to talk with those clubs without delay. He said he would soon meet with the president of the Neftchi club and try to settle the problem peacefully.
On 9 May, Azerbaijan celebrated Victory Day. Azerbaijani newspapers carried recollections of the veterans of World War II and how they felt about this day. In an interview in the opposition newspaper "Azadlig," veteran Minad Melikov said that war veterans are not valued any more. He said he had just argued with a bus driver. Veterans are supposed to ride public transportation for free. Melikov said it is very hard for them to live under the present conditions in Azerbaijan. Another war veteran, Tofig Mammadov, an invalid, said that he had done everything possible to supply the Soviet front with fuel during the war, claiming that life now is hard for them -- they have no money for bread or for using transportation.
Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev turned 79 on 10 May. The 9 May issue of some Azerbaijani newspapers carried commentaries, analyses, and articles praising the president. The government newspaper "Azerbaijan" carried a major article entitled "A person whose fate has become the fate of millions" which praised the Azerbaijani president. The governmental newspapers "Yeni Azerbaycan" and "Khalg" also carried articles praising the president.
The 9 May issue of the independent newspaper "Zerkalo" reported that Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev expects nothing good from the Prague meeting of the OSCE Minsk group co-chairs. Guliev also does not believe much will come from the meeting of the presidents of Armenia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan to be held on 14 May in Reykjavik.
The 9 May issue of the independent newspaper "Ekho" claimed that Azerbaijan is not able to protect children and because of this, does not join Convention 182, which denounces the exploitation of child labor.
Konul Khalilova wrote in 9 May issue of the independent newspaper "525" that the Armenian president's envoy has intensified talks with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami over construction of a gas pipeline. This comes in the wake of protests from the U.S. over the country's investments in the pipeline, which is to run from Iran to Armenia. According to the author, "the third country," which Khatami implied was the U.S., had previously expressed its concern. Khalilova wrote that U.S. officials, who in the past refused to comment on Iranian-Armenian ties, are demonstrating a harsher position. The author also said that Armenia, which receives millions of dollars from the U.S. in the form of assistance, continues its ties with Iran despite Washington's protests.
The Azerbaijani parliament is discussing a bill on use and protection of the Azerbaijani language, and the issue has been broadly covered by Azerbaijani newspapers.
The 9 May issue of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" carried the article "The inclination for Russian is rising," which included opinions by Professor Kamil Veli Nerimanoglu and poet Famil Mehdi. According to Nerimanoglu, Azerbaijan is an independent state, and as in many other countries, it is not necessary for education to be conducted in Russian. Nerimanoglu thinks that state policy plays a particular role in this issue. He said if the mother tongue is supposed to be the language of state policy, those who do not know their mother tongue should not become high-ranking state officials. In this case, responsibility will increase, and everyone will respect his language. Referring to the irresponsible attitude toward Azerbaijani, Professor Mehdi castigated those who speak Russian at events, saying that these officials must speak their native language and be an example for their people. Mehdi said a new trend called "political boastfulness" has appeared. According to Mehdi, those officials use a borrowed word in their speech irrelevantly trying to show that their knowledge is superior.
In an article entitled "A country that has suffered from terror will never support terrorism" carried in the 9 May issue of the government newspaper "Azerbaijan," Flora Khelilzade protests against articles carried by the opposition press, particularly the newspaper "Yeni Musavat," claiming that branches of the Kurdish workers' party (PKK) exist in Azerbaijan. The author says that Azerbaijan is a country with problems and the world is interested in this country. Khelilzade wrote that a man should not besmirch his country's name. The author concluded that the Trabzon summit leveled one more blow on the PKK and other terrorist structures. The signing of a document by the presidents of Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Georgia to jointly combat terrorism paves the way for eliminating the roots of this major problem.
Tahir Gerenfil, the head of the Baku bureau of Turkey's TV channel STV, gave an interview to the 9 May issue of the pro-government newspaper "Yeni Azerbaycan." According to him, there is no meaningful competition now among radio and TV stations in Azerbaijan and Turkey. As for development of television in Azerbaijan, Garanfil said that while there is development in this sector, it is below average.
In the article "When ambitions overcome love for the motherland" carried by the 9 May issue of the government newspaper "Khalg," the writer, Aziz, wrote that there is a need for a civil and constructive opposition in Azerbaijan, which will work within the Azerbaijani Constitution. This opposition should be objective and demonstrate national, democratic, and patriotic thinking and behavior. The author also stressed that over the past nine years, an environment of socio-political stability and social activity has been established in Azerbaijan, which can become a example for newly independent states.
The 9 May issue of opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet" reported that some days ago, the Turkish intelligence service detained an Azerbaijani national at Istanbul airport with a suitcase containing $40 million. The article claimed that this person "could evade" the attention of Azerbaijani customs officers and obtain a guarantee that there would be no problems for him in Baku or with Turkey's customs service. After a preliminary investigation, the article said that it was revealed the money belonged to a person close to the ruling family. This fact has resulted in a great scandal, the article added. The name of the chief of the president's security service, Beyler Ayyubov, is also mentioned in this context. The article goes on to say that there are conflicting versions of the story, one of which claimed that the money was in some way connected with the PKK.
(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)